SPAIN – Championship leader Valtteri Bottas grabbed pole position for Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix when he outpaced his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in a tightly-contested qualifying session.
The Finn, who leads the defending five-time champion by a single point in this year’s title race, completed a hat-trick of successive poles this year after taking the prime grid position in both China and Azerbaijan.
Bottas clocked a stunning track record lap of 1min 15.406sec to finish six-tenths clear of his British teammate.
With Hamilton second, it gave Mercedes another front row lock-out and suggested this year’s title race may become a duel between the two Silver Arrows drivers.
Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari was third ahead of Max Verstappen of Red Bull, Charles Leclerc in the second Ferrari and Pierre Gasly in the second Red Bull.
Romain Grosjean was seventh ahead of his Haas teammate Kevin Magnussen, Russian Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso and Daniel Ricciardo in his Renault.
"I really enjoyed that," said Bottas. "The adrenaline rush you get from laps like that is great so I am really pleased.
"The season has started well, the way I hoped for, and I feel better in the car."
Hamilton congratulated Bottas and conceded that he had been unable to extract the maximum from his car on a circuit where he was hoping to land his own hat-trick of three straight Spanish poles.
Vettel was also disappointed as Ferrari failed to deliver the pace that could bring an end to Mercedes domination.
"The car doesn’t feel too bad, but obviously we are not quick enough," he said.